Year B – Lent 1 – Genesis 9:8-17

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.””

Summary – In Verse 8 & 9 God, speaking to Noah and his son’s states, “I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.” God’s promise would extend beyond this generation. God also says He will never destroy man or animals again by a flood nor shall the earth cease to exist as a result of the flood. The “sign,” the rainbow, when seen on the face of the clouds is brought about by God and God says when He sees the sign He “will remember My [His] covenant that is between you and Me [God].” God says “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between” [Himself] “and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Insight – In God’s economy all legal agreements require a sign or a seal as a reminder of the terms of the covenant. The sign of the rainbow is comparable to the witness in later covenants. When God says in verse 13 “I have set my bow in the clouds,” this can mean to “give.” This common phenomenon of the rainbow became a pledge of peace. Its appearance when showers began to fall would be joyfully welcomed. The “bow” is the same word as the weapon that shoots arrows. Often rain and lightning are referred to in Hebrew as God’s arrows (Deut. 31:28; Psa. 18:14; Hab. 3:11). God’s bow now turned the other way (inverted as in the shape of a rainbow), perhaps shows His willingness to receive repentant sinners in the absence of His wrath and to also demonstrate His sovereign will, power and love to His elect. He does this ultimately through the the blood of the new covenant in the crucifixion & resurrection of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ which we receive through faith.

Child Catechism – What does a rainbow in the clouds remind us of? The rainbow in the clouds reminds that God will keep always His Covenant Promises.

Discussion – How does God keep His Covenant with us today for our eternal salvation? What is our part if any in order to keep God’s Covenant?

Prayer – Lord God and Heavenly Father, thank you God for Your promises that You have kept and will always keep as we trust You alone through Jesus alone through faith alone this day and every day. We praise You joyfully and ask that You give us the perseverance to press on even though the times in which we live may be difficult. We both thank You and praise You in Jesus name alone, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

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Year B – Transfiguration Sunday – 2 Kings 2:1-12

“1Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.”

Summary – Elijah, knowing that he was about to be taken up by God and prompted by the Holy Spirit goes on a journey. He is depicted here as wanting to go off to a quiet place and he is accompanied by his understudy Elisha. He does however ask Elisha if he realizes that his master is about to be taken up. Elisha acknowledges but makes it clear that his loyalty to Elijah will supersede Elijah’s request for him to stay behind and so they press on together passing through the region served. In addition, fifty other men “of the company of prophets” also follow but at a distance as though curious but still showing respect. Elijah when arriving to the Jordan in similar fashion as Moses by the Spirit parts the water and they cross together on dry ground. Elijah asks Elisha if he has a parting request from his master. Elisha’s request is for a “double share of your spirit.” Elijah assures him that if it is to come to fruition it will be of God not him and then states: “yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” They are then separated by the horses and Chariot of fire and Elijah departs to the heavens in a miraculous whirl wind. Elisha then rends his clothes as an expression outwardly of his grief and loss inwardly.

Insight – The miraculous event had been made known to the prophet Elijah. However, unknown to him, it had also been revealed to his disciples and to Elisha who in particular was determined to remain by his side until Elijah’s final departure. Gilgal was near Ebal and Gerizim; a school of the prophets was established there. At Beth-el there was also a school of the prophets, which Elijah had founded. In travelling to these places inspired by the Holy Spirit Elijah would pay a farewell to those institutions. They were also on the way to the place of his ascension. At the same time and from a feeling of humility and modesty Elijah was, wanting to be where there would be no eye-witnesses of his glorification. However, all his efforts to have Elisha remain behind were fruitless. Elisha knew that the time was at hand and at every place the sons of the prophets spoke to him of the approaching removal of his master. Their last stage on the journey was at the Jordan where they were followed by fifty scholars/students who sought to witness the miraculous translation of the prophet. The revelation of this striking event to so many was a necessary part of what would be visible historical proof of the continuation of promised supernatural events that would take place in the fulfillment of the covenant promises and a type of the resurrection of Christ the perfect and final fulfillment of God’s promise to His covenant people for their salvation eternal by grace alone through faith alone and as we hear and read by the Word alone.

Childs Catechism – What promises can we know and trust God for? We can know and trust God for all His promises.

Discussion – How did God translate or change Elijah? Why did God translate Elijah to depart this realm without seeing death?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, thank you Lord for your Word which teaches; gives demonstration and proof of Your miraculous supernatural intervention in Your creation and our lives as we both retrospectively witness with trust and faith the fulfillment of your promised Messiah and the inward testimony we have today by the indwelling of Your Holy Spirits as we now through Christ are temples of You O God, and “the temple of God is Holy,” and that is what we are by grace alone through faith alone according to Your Word alone, O God, AMEN.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Epiphany – 6 – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Text – Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Summary – Building on the previous passage, Paul continues to point out his self-sacrifice as an example for his congregants.  Drawing on the example of the Isthmian games which were held every three years near Corinth, Paul explains how he–like the athletes involved–exercises great self control in an effort to “receive the prize.”  But though he has his example mainly in view, he is building his case that the Christian life is more than doing “just what you are supposed to.”  Indeed, the mortification of sin is essential in the life of a Christian.  Thus, the Corinthians are exhorted to follow his lead.

“What an argument and what a reproof is this!  The reckless and listless Corinthians thought they could safely indulge themselves to the very verge of sin, while this devoted apostle considered himself as engaged in a life-struggle for his salvation.”  -Charles Hodge

Insight – The London Summer Olympic games are coming up this summer.  Even now, athletes are putting themselves through strict regimens in hope that they will stand atop the podium listening to their national anthem with a bit of bullion strapped around their neck.  Gymnasts are drinking their protein shakes, swimmers practicing their strokes, volleyball players practicing their spikes.  But for what?  They all hope to win the top prize.  But remember what St Paul wrote in the previous passage about not doing just enough to get by?  It is not enough for an Olympic sprinter to just line up on the starting block but never start running.  It is not enough for a gymnast to walk once across the balance beam and hop off.  And imagine what would happen if a swimmer decided mid-race to dive for the penny he saw glittering at the bottom of the pool!  No, these athletes are in it to win it.  It would seem silly if it were otherwise wouldn’t it?  But so often, that is our attitude.  Though it seems completely normal for an athlete to give up Big Macs for the “eternal glory” a gold medal would bring, we are hesitant to give up the things in our lives that keep us from a deep relationship with Jesus and eternal life in Him.  Our goal is perseverance in faith our whole lives and not enslavement to the distractions we come upon so often.  In an Olympic event, there is one winner.  But as Christians, our “one winner” is Jesus Christ who sacrificed His heavenly home, His comfort, and emptied Himself, becoming obedient to death.  He won the race already.  Now through persevering faith in Him, we become more than conquerors.  With our eyes on His example as well as that of St Paul, we can confidently devote all of our lives to our Emperor, knowing that our crown is everlasting, not a wreath of laurel that will wilt in a few days.

 Child Catechism – What kind of reward do faithful Christians receive?  An eternal reward.

 Discussion – What sorts of things distract you from focusing on Christ?  Since completing the “race”–that is, living lives of faith–seems like such a difficult task, how can you be confident that it is possible? (Philippians 1:6)

Prayer – Dear Lord, your eternal reward is what we desire, yet we acknowledge how often we are distracted from the self-control and perseverance you call us to.  Forgive our selfishness and turn us to your glory.  Thank you for your promise to draw near to those who draw near to you and please give us the strength to do so.  Amen.

(Contributed by Jon Herr)

Year B – Epiphany 6 – Psalm 30

“30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.  30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: 30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”

Summary – The psalmist gives praise and thanks for his deliverance from his foes. The psalmist cries out to God for his rescue even from death and he gives and sings praises to God for the same. God is Holy and rescues His faithful ones and the psalmist understanding this acknowledges that weeping as a result of ones sin is a painful reality for the truly repentant but joy come’s to God’s people who cry out to Him in repentance as they are eternally loved and forgiven. While the psalmist experienced a time of suffering God heard His cries and delivered him turning his mourning into dancing! The psalmist reflects and with great joy in his very soul he praises God alone and declares to give God thanks forever!!

Insight – The psalmist speaks of his deliverance as being drawn up as if from a well or pit referring to deliverance from the depths of death (30:3). Throughout Scripture and seen especially in the healing and miracles performed by Jesus God is seen as the great temporal and eternal healer. In referring to “Sheol” the dwelling-place of the dead, “you brought up my soul from Sheol,” the psalmist reveals that the sickness had brought him to the brink of death (Psa. 28:1). He then invites the community of Saints, those who have experienced the covenantal loving-kindness of God to join him in praising the Lord. Interesting note: because of God’s character, anger is a necessary response to sin, but His anger redemptively gives way to the expression of His steadfast eternal love. In other words He does sometimes correct us but when convicted we weep in response because 1. It’s an appropriate response to God’s corrective love and 2. In our heart-felt tears of sorrow for our sins we demonstrate true repentance. Thus, joy is the response to experiencing God’s forgiving love. An important note to consider: When prosperity (wealth) had been the psalmist’s lot his confidence in himself was unshakable (Deut. 8:11ff.). However, with the withdrawal of God’s approval the psalmist’s whole world came crashing down. Our appeal for mercy then must also be based on putting off all self-praise. All of our gifts and abilities, all of our talent and the riches we can earn and store with the work of our hands was and is all from God. He made us, He gifted us, He provided for us and the praise then should be from the deepest part of our soul in response and with praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance and provision.

Childs Catechism – When we do well and receive many blessings who shall we thank? We shall thank God because he loves us and gives us everything we need.

Discussion – Why does God get angry? What shall we do when we receive God’s loving correction? How does God correct us? Why is it important for us to hear God’s Word daily?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and Heavenly Father, may we always hear Your loving voice through Your written Word. And as we remember things we should never have done, please O God forgive us and be gentle when You correct us that we perish not but rather that we may all be healed by You, that we may serve only You to Your Glory and in Your Power and to Your praise, serving You alone for ever and ever in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

 

Year B – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

“If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.  For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

Summary – This passage acts as part of Paul’s apostolic “testimony.”  He explains his ministerial strategies in ways that exemplify his self-sacrifice and dedication to the Gospel.  Following the theme of 1 Corinthians as a whole, Paul explains that he can’t brag just because he preaches the Gospel:  he is called to do so.  His reward is that he yielded his rights to make the Gospel easier for people to accept.  We learn that he enslaved himself to the societal statuses of all sorts of people to bring the Gospel into their context.  This strategy was not to give Paul a reason to brag, but for the sake of the gospel, so that he could share in its blessings.:

“This then was his recompense for labour, and this his ground of glorying–that he did with readiness of mind forgo his right in respect of applying himself to the discharge of his office willingly and with fervent zeal.” –John Calvin

Insight – What would happen if an airline pilot asked the control tower, “Hey, what is the highest amount of injuries I am allowed to have during this flight?”  Or if your dad hands you the keys to the car after you get your drivers’ license and you ask him, “How many of the wheels do I need to bring back?”  The pilot would be grounded, and you wouldn’t be driving to the movie theater!  In other words, there is a certain level of responsibility the pilot and the new driver have which they must meet: the pilot is expected to get all his passengers to their destination safely and the driver is expected to return his father’s car unblemished.  These two people had an attitude which wanted to know how much they had to do just to get by.  But that is not an attitude that tends to get rewarded too often!  In this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains how if he only preached the Gospel, there is no extra reward there because that is what he is supposed to do.  But if he forgets his own selfish desires and preaches the Gospel with all his heart and soul, there is a reward in store.  Now, there is nothing wrong with doing “what you are supposed to:” that is what you are supposed to do!  But if our attitude in that is to “just get by” so we can spend more time doing something we want to do, we miss the point.  On the other hand, if our attitude is one of humility and love for others, we’ve got it.  If the pilot happily does his job to the fullest, smiling and thanking each passenger as they leave, or if the young driver takes good care of the car and gives it an extra wash on the way home, that gets noticed!

Child Catechism – What kind of obedience pleases God?  When I obey Him willingly because I love Him.

Discussion – Is doing only what you are supposed to do pleasing to God?  How so or how not?  What would make a mom more appreciative:  1) A child who does the dishes when she told him to, grumbling all the way, or, 2) a child who cheerfully does the dishes without being asked?  Why?

Prayer – Dear Lord, we desire to serve you to the best of our abilities.  We want your name to be praised through us.  Please help us to obey you willingly and joyfully.  Please help us, by your Holy Spirit, to put away our own selfish desire for personal glory and look only to yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Contributed by Jon Herr)

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Mark 1:21-28

“21They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.”

Summary – Jesus goes to Capernaum and according to tradition, on the Sabbath, He goes into the synagogue and begins to teach.  The people were amazed by His teaching because He taught as One superior in knowledge and with authority yet to be experienced by those awaiting Messiah. At that time there was a man with an unclean spirit. The spirit calls out to Jesus in a sense as if saying, “what are you doing here, I know who you really are and I do not want to hear from you!” The very thing that man with the unclean spirit needed was deliverance by the hand of Jesus but the evil spirit speaks out and challenges Him. Jesus in the authority of the Most High God rebukes the spirit who with no power over the Christ angrily causes the man to violently shake and as ordered by Jesus the spirit comes out of the man.  Everyone there was amazed and wondering if this was a new teaching.  Jesus became famous, and the news spread throughout the region.

Insight – Jesus’ message was revolutionary and it still is but He did not upset the religious system of that time at that time. Jesus taught in an organized manner and did so within the established religious order even though right practice had been distorted by the religious leadership of that time. Jesus’ sermon is remembered not altogether for what he said, but for how he said it. Rather than offer a personal opinion on a subject, the religious teachers of that day relied on a whole series of quotations from great men of the past to support their teaching. Jesus relied on the authority of God according to the written Word alone and the people responded quickly to his fresh style. He then both supported and demonstrated His/God’s authority by casting out the unclean spirit.

Child’s Catechism – How did Jesus teach? He taught as one having authority.

Discussion – Where can we find truth to rely on as an authority in all areas of life? In what ways do you show that you trust God’s authority in your life?

Prayer – O God O Lord, we thank you Jesus for being faithful to your calling and standing against all evil in every age. Give us this day the faith we need to trust Scripture for every area of our lives as You did in obedience even unto death. Help us, O Lord, lead and empower us to spread the truth of Your Word faithfully in our everyday walk and lives. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA